Greedy Kingdoms - AEG $24.99
Game title: Greedy Kingdoms
Game description: Greedy Kingdoms puts you in the role of one of these kings, competing against your opponent to be the first to construct two royal palaces, showing your wealth and prestige to the world. use your heroes to gather needed resources, but your opponent may be able to top them if they can guess who you have sent on missions for you. Greedy Kingdoms is a tight, tense two player game of deduction and resource management from Japan. Quick play and easy rules make this a game where greed is definitely good!
The goal of Greedy Kingdoms is to earn two Royal Palaces for your kingdom first. To get the resources to buy Royal Palaces, you send out three of your royal staff – Heroes – as attackers every turn. Every unblocked Hero provides some rewards, usually in the form of getting resources from the bank, some of which cost other resources to use. To stop your Heroes, the other monarch sends out three Heroes of their own as blockers. Every defending Hero that matches an attacking Hero stops that Hero from getting rewards. Before and after your attack, you can spend resources to purchase an upgrade – a card from a rotating pool that provides either a one-time or last effect – or an advanced Hero – a better version of one of the basic Heroes each player has, replacing it in their kingdom, providing better rewards and/or lower costs. The Royal Palace is an expensive upgrade, always available every turn, that provides no direct benefit except that the first kingdom with two Royal Palaces wins the game.
Wide strategic space while still easy to learn
Plays in under half an hour
Not for the easily frustrated
More abstract than thematic
Upgrades possibly imbalanced
Tim: Kayleigh and I love playing games together. When we had the opportunity to review a new two-player game, we were excited – and even moreso once we saw this new game was a reworking of a 2009 game that I’d had my eye on for a while. I knew that Greedy Kingdoms was a head-to-head card game with a bluffing element, by the designer of the enjoyable simultaneous-selection game Grimoire. What I didn’t know was how much we’d end up loving this!
Kayleigh: I hadn’t been familiar with Greedy Kingdoms prior to receiving it for review. At first glance, I had a good feeling about this game. The distinct art style is colorful and eye-catching, which is always a plus for me. Furthermore, the graphic design on each card is clean, succinct, and useful. I tend to have trouble remembering rules as Tim teaches me new games, but this wasn’t an issue with Greedy Kingdoms. Each card’s graphic design made actions, abilities, upgrades, resources, etc. crystal clear to the players. The design and game structure is so clear, even I’m able to teach it successfully to new players (which can’t be said for many games!) The simplicity of game flow is a huge draw for me – it makes the game accessible to get into, while still leaving much to be explored in regards to forming individual strategies and psychologically outsmarting your opponent.
Tim: The goal of Greedy Kingdoms is to earn two Royal Palaces for your kingdom first. To get the resources to buy Royal Palaces, you send out three of your royal staff – Heroes – as attackers every turn. Every unblocked Hero provides some rewards, usually in the form of getting resources from the bank, some of which cost other resources to use. An unblocked Cook provides your kingdom with food. An unblocked King will provide land and honor (the two resources needed for the Royal Palace) but costs gold and food that you’d previously accumulated.
To stop your Heroes, the other monarch sends out three Heroes of their own as blockers. Every defending Hero that matches an attacking Hero stops that Hero from getting rewards. (The defender never gets anything, all they can do is block.)
Before and after your attack, you can spend resources to purchase an upgrade – a card from a rotating pool that provides either a one-time or last effect – or an advanced Hero – a better version of one of the basic Heroes each player has, replacing it in their kingdom, providing better rewards and/or lower costs. The Royal Palace is an expensive upgrade, always available every turn, that provides no direct benefit except that the first kingdom with two Royal Palaces wins the game.
As much as we enjoyed it after our first play, it really began to shine starting with play #2. Now that we had a firm grasp on the ultimate challenge of the game – not just picking Heroes that your opponent wouldn’t guess, but gathering that valuable Honor resource that you need to build the Royal Palaces you need to win – the strategy opened wide. Once you see the different values of the resources, it turns from complex rock-paper-scissors into a much more interesting system of weighted benefits and unequal incentives. Greedy Kingdoms is a clean, approachable game with tense psychological strategy and impressive depth for its length. And it’s a wonderful feeling when you can slip your plan past your opponent, or when you can perfectly block them. This game more than most has provided lots of yelling – whether inspired by excitement or tragedy.
Kayleigh: Tim and I typically enjoy playing games with a psychology element to them – and yes, they can get quite intense. And loud (sorry, Tim). This element stands out in a fun, positive way when compared to other psychology-type games that we’ve played. Games sharing this element can sometimes leaving me feel stuck, spinning my wheels until the end of the game because Tim got in my head before I got into his. In Greedy Kingdoms, having ten attack/defense actions available to me each turn, I never felt too limited or overwhelmed by my play options. There were always several great play combinations available, depending on the amount of risk a player’s willing to take. I seldom felt stuck or cornered in to a particular line of play. When your opponent can get inside your head easily, it’s nice having several options available to switch up your approach, turn the tables, and have them be taken off-guard!
Tim: The game is light and loosely themed – there’s nothing intrinsic to the resources that makes them act differently, the heroes and upgrades could very easily be swapped out with an entirely different theme, and at no point do I ever feel like a monarch ruling over subjects. The components are functional and well-made – good illustrations on the cards, and colorful chunky wooden resource bits – but nothing that will wow anybody. But those aren’t marks against it for me. Greedy Kingdoms doesn’t waste its effort on fluff or flavor – it’s a lean, streamlined gem of strategy and psychological outmaneuvering. I would strongly recommend Greedy Kingdoms to anyone who enjoys highly interactive head-to-head battles of wits.
Kayleigh: Unlike Tim, I think the theme is essential! I like to imagine that my Cook is whacking his own with her frying pan, blocking him from taking two food! Or perhaps my Thief outsmarted his Painter, while his Bandit and Adventurer never saw it coming! Although come to think of it, it could just as easily be zombies greedily sneaking by each other for brains… But there are enough zombie games afoot, plus they’re too brain-starved to spend much time psychologically outmaneuvering anyway. I digress.
Greedy Kingdoms is a wonderful little game. It quickly became a favorite at our game table, as I’m sure it will at yours, too! Quick enough to be a two-player palate-cleanser while locking you in intense head-to-head strategy, keeping you active with little downtime, and putting your nerves on edge as you are overcome with an insatiable appetite for braaaaains… I mean… honor, land, and victoryyyyy!
A copy of Greedy Kingdoms was provided free for review by AEG.
Tim and Kayleigh Mierzejewski first met at a Battlestar Galactica board game night and visited GenCon on their honeymoon, so it’s safe to say they are big fans of games! Tim is one of the designers of Geek Fever Games, behind titles like Druid Dice, Plus Word, and Ice Fortress, and Kayleigh is his favorite playtester and co-developer. Together they enjoy games ranging from Taboo to Mage Knight, and have begun teaching their pre-school daughters to love games just as much as they do.